Friday, June 3, 2011

Do As If You Have To Do It Forever

While reading Namita Devidayal's 'The Music Room' a piece of advise that her music teacher Dhondutai gives her stuck with me  - 'When you sing a raga, sing it like it is the only one you know'. That is pretty much how the experts practice each part of their repertoire - individually honing each skill until it stands out on its own. In cricket, unless you know each stroke so well, there is always a confusion between which stroke to employ at what time and to what ball - a sure case for a dismissal. One dilemma that many talented cricketers fall for when faced with a slightly higher level of bowling which tests them. Only the experts know when to employ that stroke and when not to. It made immense sense to me and I wonder how best to relate this to my students and trainees who 'take their eyes off the ball' easily.

One of the toughest things is to motivate oneself when no great reward is showing up instantly. Or when one is quite content with life. But we are not content really. We are constantly caught between being content and wanting more. There is always stress - that we are doing okay and at the same time not doing enough. It drives you nuts. Why practice that raga, that stroke unless someone guarantees riches, fame, recognition. Similarly, why work hard at work unless someone guarantees promotions, riches, and a good life forever. But there are no guarantees. That is the beauty of life. The only guarantee is that you feel a deep satisfaction of knowing when you practice and perfect anything.

There is a paradox but I think we must use it to give our best. One is to build in a sense of urgency by believing that life is not forever. That death is imminent. That we are only what we have today. And then we use that urgency to work with intensity, with a fullness that satisfies us. And with a purpose that makes all else, all the inconsequential and insignificant activities, fall off. The urgency brings in a clarity of purpose.  I will learn to be the best singer of this raga, the exponent of this stroke, this skill and I will devote all my time towards it.

At the same time we must also do every job as if we are doing it forever. For the rest of our lives. The moment all ambiguity of where you will be working goes out of the window, you will settle down to your job and learn it. You will look at a future in it. You will plan your life there. You will plan your goals, your hard work, your skill sets and move deliberately. There will be no maverick business. You are there forever. And as long as you are on that work, believe this. That you will do it forever. Until you die.

You take the same approach to love. To marriage. To commitments. That they are forever. Okay, things change. Marriages break. Love goes. But the moments you spend have a stability and a conviction that gives it a peace, a bliss. Similarly with jobs. Forever makes sense. When things change, fine, move on, and then love the next one forever again. For as long as it exists.

Even if you are working on something for a day - work at it as if you are working at it forever. That is how the masterpieces are created. That is what gives you the peace to create that masterpiece. And then, again. And again. Forever. This is the way to be present in the moment. Another paradox. To be in the now, we must believe we are going to be there forever.

I think this is what gave the people in olden days a kind of peace. They never buzzed with the nervous instability of today, never present to the moment. Always thinking ahead, of the next move, of when things will change for the better. Never creating anything of lasting value because there is no peace. No forever in it.

Even if you love someone for a moment - believe that you love that person forever. Those are the moments that stay forever long after the moment is gone. They have magic. As opposed to being with someone a whole lifetime and never being there! A lifetime of work, of love, of possibilities wasted. Instead we can choose to create that magic. It suspect it deepens the smile, adds warmth to the eye, gives peace to the heart, joy to life!

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